Women Nearly Absent From the New York State Ballot


Politics: It’s a lonely road to walk, ladies.

As New Yorkers head to the polls this morning, they may be shocked to find that despite voting in what is supposedly one of the most progressive states in the country, women will be conspicuously absent from the ballot in races for New York’s executive leadership roles.

Kathy Hochul is on the ballot for lieutenant governor as Andrew Cuomo’s running mate. And Theresa Portelli is the Green (no-hope) candidate for comptroller.

And that’s it.

According to a report by the D.C.-based Women and Politics Institute, “young women are less likely than young men to receive encouragement to run for office — from anyone.” Meanwhile, in 2004, one of the same authors pointed to lower annual incomes, less outside support, and “more demanding household obligations” holding women back from taking the risk of a campaign.

In other words, women’s lack of representation in electoral politics is nothing new, and people have been asking why for a while.

But this year, New York State’s representation looks particularly pathetic in contrast with other, less traditionally progressive states across the country.

In Florida, Republican attorney general Pam Bondi is poised to win re-election, and Democratic candidate Annette Taddeo is in the running for lieutenant governor.

In Illinois, Attorney General Lisa Madigan is also running for re-election. Meanwhile, Democrat Sheila Simon is trying to unseat Republican Judy Baar Topinka — also a lady! — in the race for comptroller.

And EMILY’s List — a group that supports pro-choice Democrat women who run for office — has thrown its weight behind three statewide candidates in both Nevada and Ohio.

That’s right. Nevada and Ohio have more women running for state leadership in these midterms than New York. New York…have we no pride?

Representatives from political women’s groups say the situation in New York isn’t entirely dire. “New York is unusual,” says Eleanor Smeal, director of a group called Feminist Majority. “You have one out of two senators…you have a large number of members in the congressional delegation, and frankly, you’re ahead in that perspective.”

Currently, New York State has seven female representatives (out of 27 total seats) in Congress. A 2013 study by electoral reform group FairVote gives New York a Gender Parity Index score of 17 (where 50 is considered legitimate gender parity and scores above 50 are for a unicorn world where men aren’t sufficiently represented in the public sphere). New York is 20th in the nation in terms of female representation, behind New Hampshire, Arizona, North Carolina, and Kansas but ahead of Rhode Island and Vermont. And good news: We’re also ahead of New Jersey (24th on the list).

A representative from EMILY’s List said not to discount some of the big gains women have made upstate lately, either. Women have recently been elected mayor in Rochester, Albany, and Syracuse. And there are several women running for seats in the state senate.

At the same time, women’s success in the legislature only further underscores a challenge Smeal sees facing women who aspire to the big statewide executive gigs. “These are hard seats for women to win,” she says.

Smeal says it can be harder for women to raise the large sums it takes to campaign in a state like New York, but that another issue is one that is harder to pin down: the pervasiveness of stereotypes.

“You know the stereotypes,” she says. “Women are not ‘The Boss.’ “